Things sound awfully rotten deep in the heart of Texas.
With the Dallas Stars stumbling along to yet another mediocre and completely pointless season, tensions are running high and fingers are being pointed.
Those fingers are going squarely in the direction of the team’s best and highest paid players, Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn.
This is nothing new in the world of professional sports, and especially the NHL, where the people at the top of the payroll will always take the fall when things go poorly, whether they are the ones most responsible for it or not.
But this isn’t your run-of-the-mill criticism from fans or the local press. This is over-the-top, extremely vicious, and irrational ranting from, of all people, the team’s very own CEO, Jim Lites.
Not only was it all of that, but Lites specifically went to local members of the Dallas media with the intention of going on the record to rip his team’s star players.
In an interview with Sean Shapiro of The Athletic, Lites used several expletives to describe the play of Seguin and Benn this season, saying they have been “f—— horse s—” and that team’s owner Tom Gaglardi is “pissed.”
He did not stop there.
From The Athletic:
“We are a stars-driven league, and our stars aren’t getting it done,” Lites said. “It’s embarrassing, and no one writes it. Write it!”
“These guys are not good enough. They’re not good enough for me, they’re not good enough for the owner, and they’re certainly not good enough for the general manager, who I can’t speak for, but it’s not good enough for the job he’s done,” Lites added. “But we’ve had meeting after meeting after meeting. The accountability on the ice is not there. These guys were signed to big contracts because they were the third- and sixth-leading scorers in the National Hockey League over the past five years. They get their money, we expect them to not be outplayed every game we play in. And if they were as good as they’ve been in the past we wouldn’t be having this conversation.”
There was more, via Matthew DeFranks of the Dallas Morning News:
“But for me, it’s pissed me off, what nobody says is what is completely obvious to me: We are getting terrible play from our top two players,”
“If 14 and 91 don’t lead, we will not be successful,” Lites said. “I think this is the most talented and deep team we’ve had in years here. Certainly, this is the best team that we’ve put together from a talent perspective since Tom Gaglardi’s owned the franchise. Tom has allowed us to do everything we needed to do to be successful. Whatever it’s taken, he’s done. And I am tired of getting emails from him saying ‘What the hell is going on with our best players?'”
This type of candid, on-the-record criticism is almost completely unheard of in the NHL, and makes the rant from Pittsburgh Penguins GM Jim Rutherford from earlier in the season look relatively tame, if for no other reason than he had the good sense to not make his star players the focal points of his anger.